Cliffs Natural Resources president remains optimistic, but has reasons for ‘concern’
A year after it was announced that a chromite smelter and hundreds of jobs were coming to Sudbury, there is still no deal in place. And the mining company behind the project, Cliffs Natural Resources, now says the delays could put the whole thing in jeopardy.
The province and the mining company have yet to sign an agreement that lays out the specifics of the mine access road, how much of the ore will be processed in Sudbury and how much Cliffs will pay for electricity.
After being in daily contact last year, the two sides haven’t met since January. But the new mines minister, Michael Gravelle, said there’s no reason to worry. “It’s not a question of apportioning blame at all, I think this is just a complex project,” he said.
Cliffs’ vice-president Bill Boor said he remains optimistic, however long delays could mean no mine and no smelter. “The project does have risk when it’s stopped like this,” he noted. “And that causes me concern.”
No meetings planned
While the chromite isn’t going anywhere, the market conditions have to be right for a complicated plan like this to work, Boor said.
No future meetings between the province and Cliffs are scheduled and the opening of the smelter has been pushed back to 2017.
There isn’t one issue that is holding up the negotiations, Boor added, noting it’s not fair to say the mine site in Ontario’s northwest is the stumbling block, where there have been questions about the access road at the mine, and protests by area First Nations.
“[I] can’t really identify one part and attribute the delay to that one part,” he said.
“It all has to fit together … all of the pieces are variables in a negotiation and — until it all makes sense — you really haven’t made progress.”
If the delays stretch on too long, the chromite mine and the Sudbury smelter could be moved to the backburner, Boor said.
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